Do you have an actuarial graduate job interview coming? Gary Heslop from APR gives us his top interview tips for actuaries to help you succeed…
Widen your research
So you’ve fired off your applications and awaited responses with bated breath. Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for: you have an interview. Your only chance is to spend every spare minute between now and the interview date slavishly researching the company and names and personal habits of every actuary who has ever set foot in the company’s offices, right? Wrong. Don’t spend too long on reading the company’s website; instead, think more widely about the challenges the company is facing, issues surrounding the sector and profession. This will also allow you to ask better questions.
Don’t download everything you know about a subject
IFRS17 provides a good current example: it may be useful to have a very high-level knowledge of what it’s about, and to give some thought to what impact it might be having on your prospective employer (if in the insurance sector). What is unlikely to impress is a full regurgitation of the details you’ve memorised regarding the IFRS17 legislative process.
What sort of questions might I be asked in the interview?
The questions asked in an interview will vary from company to company. However, some typical interview questions might include;
- What attracted you to this company?
- Why do you want this position?
- What can you bring to this role?
- Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge
- What would you do differently if faced with the same challenge today?
- Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
- What do you think are your greatest strengths/weaknesses?
- What has been your greatest achievement?
It is unlikely that you will be asked these exact questions word-for-word, so you should be able to adapt your answers to different versions of a question.
Finally, prepare some questions that you want to ask the recruiter at the end of the interview. Some of these may be answered throughout the course of the interview, so avoid asking a question that has already been covered. If your questions have already been answered, perhaps ask your interviewer something about their role or what they think is the best thing about working for the company.
Short, concise answers are best
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked a question and after the candidate has rambled around a relevant answer, lost interest in what’s been said. Without being monosyllabic and closed, keep your answers on the short side, focused on the specific question asked and arrive at a definite end – if the interviewer wants more detail, they’ll ask for it.
It’s important to know what’s on your CV and be aware of the skills your achievements have demonstrated, in case they become relevant to questions you’re asked in interviews. However, don’t have word-for-word prepared answers for every possible line of questioning. One of the skills employers are looking for is the ability to think on your feet.
It’s not about how much you want it
It’s possibly a by-product of our reality TV culture, but it seems increasingly common that candidates believe that expressing how much they want the job or how hard they’ll work if successful, is crucial to their chances. From my perspective it’s not; a reasonable level of hard work is expected, but much more important is the quality and personality you would bring to the role.
Finally, be yourself. It’s tempting to believe that your interviewers will be cold, humourless machines, droids who care not about love or happiness, preferring instead to deal only in spreadsheets, rates of return and bottom lines. This is very rarely the case. In fact, they are more than likely going to be relatively normal people, who some years ago were in the same position as you. Engage with them, show some personality and you may find it goes a long way towards helping you secure your dream job.
How do I demonstrate soft skills in an interview?
As you can see, many of the above skills are quite abstract and therefore can be hard to demonstrate in an interview.
Some of these skills can be measured through testing, such as through personality or aptitude tests, of which are becoming quite common in graduate interviews. However, other skills will be measured through competency-based questions.
For example; ‘Give me an example of when you worked well in a team’
The best way to answer these questions is by using the STAR Principles, and you can read more about them here. This method will ensure that you answer the question clearly and concisely, emphasising on how your soft skills led to your success.